Before widely available broadband, video conferencing required dedicated high-speed lines, an expensive and limiting method. Like many other technology services, video conferencing has moved to the cloud, and now travels from one endpoint to another via the Internet. This technology is widely employed in business, medicine, education, and for personal use, and a host of free and paid solutions has arisen to meet the needs of users large and small. While the Internet has allowed video conferencing to go mainstream, it also highlights the need for premium solutions that can offer security and bandwidth features that businesses need.
Free and Paid Solutions for Video Conferencing
For small businesses, the advent of free video conferencing solutions such as Skype has been a boon. The price– free or mostly free—is appealing, and the software works well for one-on-one video conferences between remote locations. What Skype can’t provide, however, is true large group collaboration over the Internet. Skype and other free solutions offer little to accommodate multiple users in the same room, and suffer bandwidth and reliability issues when many different users join the same video call. Much remains outside the control of an IT department with Skype and similar services: your conference routes through someone else’s busy servers, and are completely at their mercy. For a large organization, or any user that requires reliable video conferencing on demand, free services simply cannot offer the reliability, scalability, or manageability of fully-integrated solutions.
Choosing a Video Conferencing Solution
When choosing a solution, an organization must carefully balance its needs with the financial resources at hand. Security is perhaps the most important concern when choosing a solution, and is often overlooked. Video conferencing is used for everything from medical consultation to corporate acquisitions– information that is potentially very damaging in the wrong hands. If your video conferencing solution will be used to discuss information of a legally or financially sensitive nature, it is of paramount importance to invest in a product with strong encryption, battle-tested security, and ensure that it is installed and configured to take advantage of all security measures.
For a large organization with its own IT department, a solution that offers control and manageability is very important. Seek a solution that can be provisioned in the cloud or on the organization’s own server assets, so that IT can manage bandwidth consumption and reporting and guarantee on-demand performance. Interoperability is another key factor: the ideal solution will work with a variety of systems, including low-end services like Skype as well as solutions from other providers.
When choosing a system an organization must consider future needs as well, so a solution that offers virtualization is ideal: rather than buying dedicated hardware, virtual machines that support conferencing services can be quickly and easily scaled to your changing needs. Virtualization may also save some investment up front– an organization can use the server hardware it already owns.
Investing in Video Conferencing
For many organizations with a global reach, video conferencing is no longer a luxury, but a vital component of doing business overseas. For an organization relying on remote group collaboration, the reliability and quality offered by a higher-priced solution is a worthy investment. The best products feature proprietary codecs that offer the best possible HD video quality while minimizing bandwidth consumption. The reliability and control offered by fully-integrated solutions also reduce the chance that embarrassing technical problems will result in late meetings and annoyed users. A free online test can determine the latency and speed of your Internet connection. If you have a weak connection, a cheaper service may not offer an adequate level of performance.
A premium video conferencing solution can be a large expense, but for an organization hoping to reap the benefits of this technology it is a worthwhile investment. Reliable, secure video conferencing holds the promise of a new era of remote collaboration, at a time when a global reach is more vital than ever.